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OWTU president general Ancel Roget addresses the media during a press conference at Paramount Building, San Fernando, yesterday.

Gail Alexander

Ready, willing, able – and very happy that Government has given an October deadline for the closure of the Guaracara refinery purchase deal with Patriotic Energies and Technologies Company Limited.

That was Patriotic head Ancel Roget’s position yesterday on Government’s disclosure that the end of October is the deadline for closure the of negotiations regarding Patriotic’s bid to buy the Pointe-a-Pierre refinery.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley gave the deadline at Monday’s 2021 Budget forums discussions. He said if the deal isn’t completed by then, other options would have to be sought. Rowley emphasized the discussions on the deal aren’t open-ended.

Roget responded yesterday, “We are ready to go…..our foreign consortium partners are also elated that a deadline has been given.”

“We’ve been ready to sign since May, July. People must recall that we’d even called for the deal to be closed before the August 10 General Election. So we’re glad of the urgency now – and we are ready.”

“We see the Prime Minister’s announcement in a very positive light and we’re also happy that people – business groups – are expressing interest on the matter since this means it’s recognized this purchase will benefit T&T.”

Patriotic is now awaiting the Assets Purchase Agreement setting conditions for the company to satisfy, including conditions under which the sale will be done.

The document will state Government’s agreement on selling.

Earlier in the year, a Government team had been put to work with Patriotic on aspects of the Asset Purchase Agreement. Attorneys for Patriotic and the state were involved in dealing with this up to after the election.

Documents were exchanged on aspects up to last Friday and the state has to respond to Patriotic on its submissions, Energy Ministry officials confirmed.

Once the agreement is signed Roget said, Patriotic’s international partners are on standby to provide all conditions required by the agreement, and parties can then move to closure in a short space of time….”Having satisfied all conditions which we’re ready to do,” Roget added.

“We’re on course with our part to ensure it comes through.”

“When that happens we’ll begin mobilization to put people to work in the refurbishment exercise where foreign exchange will be injected into T&T via this process even before the refinery starts.”

Refinery deteriorated

Saying the refinery has deteriorated over time, he added, “Repairs will be necessary as we have to ensure the refinery is refurbished and provides reliable service to run for some time before the turnaround begins since we have to guarantee local and foreign customers reliable fuel supply.”

Roget said the major repairs will cost half a billion US dollars, “And that’s where small, medium and large contractors and other businesses will benefit – scaffolders, engineers, electricians, refurbishment of assets on location.”

“We project 4,500 will be involved in the refurbishment including tank work – we’ll be putting a new face on the old Petrotrin. This in itself is part of T&T history.”

“Plus, those 4,500 people will be paying taxes also so this will be a boost for the economy. And we’ll be reintroducing an apprenticeship pool to train people also.”

Roget reiterated the new company will be run by an expert foreign management team – not him or the union.

“That team has the competency in refinery acquisition and running turnaround operations. There will also be people from Patriotic understudying the system also but the bulk of the workforce – labourers, welders, fabricators, scaffolders etc- will be drawn from local numbers.”

Roget was asked about the impact on the project by decreased demand for oil/energy supply following the hit by the COVID-19 on global movement. He assured Patriotic’s foreign partners have factored this into planning.

“There’s still a strong appetite for this project even with reduced currently. Government should facilitate an amicable closing of this major undertaking which can assist many areas including local business.”

At this point where attorneys are handling the process, Roget urged that Government “stay true to the commitment to make those assets available as per the repeated commitment by Finance and Energy ministers and others – this can work. We’ve satisfied criteria since the process began. Our foreign partners have acquired refineries all over the world. They’re highly competent.”

It’s been reported the consortium comprises UK/US and other experts in legal, financial, market and refinery acquisition. Finance Minister Colm Imbert didn’t answer messages on the process.